by Jonathan Holloway.
Oxfordshire Theatre Company Tour to 2 November 2010.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 October at The Old Town Hall Hemel Hempstead.
Small-scale theatre unafraid of the heights.
Two famous 1950s films flowed from Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac’s co-written crime novels, Henri-Georges Clouzot oppressive Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Both combine malign plottings with a strong psychological impulse, as Jonathan Holloway’s adaptation makes clear for D’Entre les Morts, Hitchcock’s source.
Taking the action back to forties France, where beautiful Madeleine Gevigne is married to a near-millionaire arms manufacturer, darkens the context. As does Holloway’s frame, treating events as hypnotised recall by acrophobic vertigo sufferer Roger Flavieres (despite the medical setting this version doesn’t distinguish between acrophobia and vertigo, as the Alec Coppel/Samuel A Taylor filmscript does).
A lot’s made of the showman-like approach of star-turn medic Jacques Ballard, who enters through the audience, chatting to people, before starting his demo with the initially passive Flavieres. (This showmanship seems forgotten at the terse ending).
As events grow stranger, Flavieres becomes passionately obsessed, till all he wants is for the apparent doppelgänger he meets post-war to look like the Madeleine he loved in 1940. Her different stance, accent and personality don’t worry him one bit.
It seems Holloway doesn’t want us to think too closely about this either. With the programme’s cast-list (quoted below) complicit in the deception, it might be questioned how anyone other than a skilled actor could combine the faraway speculative sophistication of Madeleine with the reality of her downmarket second existence.
Being a skilled actor, Sophia Thierens convinces separately in both guises from the moment she slips in as part of Falvieres’ recall. Madeleine’s polite detachment – fished out of the Seine she sits like a consciously-posed artist’s model – contrasts the slacker facial muscles, less poised movement and ready defiance of her later self.
Steve Dineen steadily builds Flavieres’ desperate obsession with the vanished Madeleine. Peter Gardiner’s explanatory doctor and Daniel Copeland’s nurse, doubling as minor figures along the way, are strong, while the dirty tiled surfaces of Laura McEwen’s set subliminally increase the sense of psychological murkiness. Karen Simpson’s production weaves events around and over these to suggest towers climbed and, backed by film, journeys through disreputable Parisian suburbs and the charming French countryside.
Dr Jacques Ballard: Peter Gardiner.
Roger Flavieres: Steve Dineen.
Madeleine Gevigne: Sophia Thierens.
Nurse Gratin: Daniel Copeland.
Director: Karen Simpson.
Designer: Laura McEwen.
Lighting: Jake Taylor.
Composer: Ivan Stott.
Movement: Heather Douglas.